"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn"-- Pride and Prejudice

Letting it all hang out

Letting it all hang out

For those who don’t know, I’m pretty much an alchemist. My boobs convert Coke to milk. It’s amazing. I don’t know how they do it, but they have managed to feed three babies to the brink of infantile obesity. And it totally baffles me every time.







So basically, I’m one of them breastfeeders. That being said, though I’m personally a breastfeeder, I’m not one to give too much of a damn about what other people feed their own kids. For example, I personally was formula fed and turned out to be absolutely brilliant, so obviously formula is good for babies. Also, I’ve never been one of those women who gets all militant about her right to breastfeed in public… or at least, I never used to be. With Will and John, I never once took a boob out in a public place. I have a great relationship with my breast pump. I’ve been lucky that I respond just as well to pumping as nursing and I’ve pumped as many as 20 oz in one sitting. You can’t buy that much soda at one time in New York City. Therefore, I’ve always kept huge stores of bottled and frozen milk at hand to feed my babies in public places. On the rare occasions when I’d get caught without a bottle, I’d retire to my air conditioned car to feed a baby.

That is until this third baby showed up. I’ve gotten lazy in my old age, and when it comes to pumping milk and washing/filling bottles, I’m just not down with it. I’ve got six full bottles in the fridge and a couple of boxes of milk stored in the freezer, but for the most part, I’m not pumping anymore. The last time I pumped was at the beginning of June. Now, I’ve just been hitting my freezer stash on the rare occasions when Kat drinks a bottle, rare because I nurse her 98% of the time. It used to be that if we’d go on a public outing, I’d bring a few bottles for whatever baby I happened to be feeding at the time. But with this baby, I’ve just lately taken to bringing my boobs. It’s way more convenient. This brings me to the point of this post: there have been times when I have nursed in public.

Before some-a-yas get all butthurt about this, let me clarify: I wear nursing tanks so no one has to see my bare stomach; My shirt is covering my upper chest and the unused boob and the baby’s head is covering the boob that’s being milked. I usually try to find a place away from crowds and facing corners of rooms or shrubbery in outdoor settings. I am especially sensitive in restaurants and unless I’m in a vacant corner, I do not nurse around people who are eating because I realize that it may be unappetizing to the masses. I try to be sensitive to others about my nursing. I do not pull my V-necks down over a boob and pace in front of a zoo entrance feeding my baby with my entire breast exposed, like I saw one woman do. I try to remain discreet. If I can’t find a discreet location, I will often go to the restroom and nurse in there or go to the car. But sometimes, I’m out there in public, and I’m feeding my baby. If you look at me despite my efforts to remain inconspicuous, you may be able to tell that I’m feeding my baby. You won’t see any nudity, but you might be aware that behind the huge baby head, there is nursing going on. And though I’ve always taken the stance that nursing mothers should err toward discretion, I’ve got to tell you that after all the precautions I’ve taken to be discreet, if you’re offended by my nursing, I’m getting to the point where I just really don’t care.

I’m not trying to be inflammatory and insensitive, and I did not used to feel that way. With Will and John, I never nursed in public. But with Kat, here is a sampling of places I have nursed:

1. In the restroom of a bowling alley
2. In the restrooms of other major fast food chains.
3. At a completely unpopulated and secluded corner of a Shoney’s
4. On several park benches at the North Carolina Zoo, including very near the exhibit where we saw a gorilla mother nursing her own infant.
5. On several benches, in a couple of rest rooms, and in isolated corners of Hersheypark and Dutch Wonderland.
6. On the beach

And the more I nurse in public, the less I care about public perception of it. Moreover, the more I nurse in public, the less inclined I am to go into a dirty restroom to do so. Nonetheless, despite all the bickering that goes on about this issue and despite the recent op-ed piecethat called for Kate Middleton to breastfeed in public, and the myriad op-ed pieces published in response to that op-ed piece, I want to be a respectful member of society and I realize that some people are put off by public nursing. Though I believe women should have a right to nurse in public, I also believe that if you can do it privately, you probably should for the greater comfort of everyone involved, not the least of which being the comfort of you and your baby. Therefore, rather than call for more incidence of public nursing, I call for more of these:


In my opinion, these should be housed right with every public bathroom. If these rooms were available for women in places other than inside Babies ‘R Us and as solitary rooms in remote corners of museums and amusement parks, public nursing wouldn’t be an issue. There’s certainly a demand for more nursing rooms. The picture of the room above was taken at Marbles Museum. There was only one nursing room in two floors of museum space and when I got out of the room, two women were waiting for their turn to nurse. One waiting baby was particularly anxious to eat, and I couldn’t help but think as I gave my fellow nursing mother an apologetic smile that A) If I were her, I might choose to forego the ambience of the nursing room and find a semi-private corner instead, that B) my decision to feed my baby in public might offend some people, and that C) it’s a shame that the innocent and necessary task of feeding a baby has to be an issue of controversy, relegated to dark, lonely corners, hot cars in parking lots, and cold, dirty restrooms. The reality is that babies eat and women’s breasts feed babies. If society is uncomfortable with the idea of women using their breasts to feed babies in public, then throw the nursing mothers a bone and give them somewhere decent to nurse. I can’t believe that it would be difficult to do. Just wall off a corner of most/all public restrooms, throw down a shag rug and a run-down rocking chair and call it a nursing room. Problem solved. Amirite? What do you think?

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  1. Breastfeeding is not a political cause for me – it’s just something I do to feed my babies. But I am plenty comfortable with breastfeeding in public. I just don’t really care if someone sees a nip slip or if people find it yucky. I’m not immodest, I’m not flaunting it, I… just don’t care. The only time I feel self-conscious about it is in close quarters with a man; for example, my toddler wanted to nurse while we were sitting in a small office with my other son’s SLP and a school psychologist. I made him wait.

    • I’m there with you. I’ve never cared about the modesty of it, but I used to care about offending others. I’m well past that now; I do think, however, if people are really so put off by nursing that better provision should be made for nursing. I went to an amusement park last week and at this huge park there was one nursing room at the park entrance. Therefore, I sat on benches and nursed. I’d rather sit in air conditioned privacy to nurse, but I think to expect me to trek to the entrance of a park every time my kid wants to eat is a bit unreasonable. If nursing facilities were as available as restrooms or restaurants, though, I’d definitely use them. Otherwise, I’m doing it where it’s convenient for me.

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